Monday, August 29, 2011

At My Table: We Vote on House Rules

At my table, we vote on the house rules (which can be found here, on our as yet sparse wiki)

I run two 3.5 edition D&D games, and I've been running one for about eight years now. The players and characters fluctuate, but I try my best to keep them going. I decided I wanted to use some house rules about two or three years ago, after learning more about how the mechanics fit together on various gaming forums, especially the Wizards Forums, Brilliant Gameologists, and the Gaming Den. Before that I was a little naive. I actually banned monks for being overpowered. It's okay. I got better.

I had experience with house rules in the past as a player, and they often went unannounced, were executive decisions by the GM, or took the form of extensive "Patch kits", sometimes in excess of thirty pages. So when I thought about making some, I resolved to try not to do any of that. I wanted them to be light (less than two pages); general, rather than tweaks to specific classes or abilities; and community supported. My general policy is that things aren't a problem until they're a problem, which saves me a lot of time not putting out fires that haven't been lit yet. And realistically, if I couldn't present a clear enough case for why these house rules would make the game more fun, then we didn't need them. While doing that, I learned a lot about the benefits of establishing them democratically, and about a few of the challenges involved.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Ideal GM: System Mastery

It's a bit of a loaded term, but one of the qualities of the ideal GM is complete knowledge of the rules of whatever game she happens to be running. Obviously, the best we, as mere mortals can hope for is an extensive knowledge of the rules, but it's still worthwhile for a number of reasons. Knowledge of the rules helps us design adventures and settings which are consistent with the ruleset, and the more we know, the faster and more efficiently we can do it. This consistency can be one of the cornerstones of our credibility, which allows us to act in secret without the worry that we're not playing the same game as everyone else in the group. However, what's interesting about the ideal GM on this subject is that she goes above and beyond this, using her system mastery in other ways in order to make the game more fun.